Thomas Quinn is an Emmy-nominated producer and writer for television and print, an author and speaker, and a skeptic.

He received his M.F.A. from the American Film Institute, worked as a story analyst for DreamWorks, Universal and HBO, and was a film critic and entertainment reporter for a Los Angeles weekly.

In 2005, Tom received two Emmy nominations as writer and producer of "Beyond the Da Vinci Code" for the History Channel.

Originally from New Jersey, he now lives in Los Angeles.

War on Christmas enters 360th Year

    Well, it’s the holidays and it’s time once again for the Fox News Channel’s annual bitch-fest over the “War on Christmas.” And, as usual, they’ll blame the wrong guys. Most of their outrage seems to involve Bill O’Reilly carping about “secular progressives” (a term he keeps hoping will catch on) banning religious carols from Jr. high schools, or removing the Nativity display from a town hall lawn. But the real “War on Christmas” started centuries ago with, of all people, the Puritans. And it continues today carried on by, of all people, America’s capitalists.

Most of us know that Christmas originated as a Roman winter solstice event—Saturnalia—and was gradually co-opted by Christians over several centuries. But the modern “War on Christmas” began when Protestants broke from the Catholic Church in the 1500s, and many of them rejected Christmas as a papist holiday. In 1645, England’s Puritan leader, Oliver Cromwell, overthrew the corrupt monarchy of Charles I and instigated a wave of religious reform that made almost everyone miserable. In 1652, he outlawed the observance of Christmas, which had been celebrated in a raucous Mardi Gras fashion back then. Shops stayed open but the churches shut down.

Even so, people continued to celebrate in private. After all, there was drinking involved and this was England. Then, when Charles II restored the English throne in 1661, Christmas was revived by popular demand.

Meanwhile, in the Protestant-dominated American colonies, Christmas took a holiday. The ultra-orthodox Puritans launched America’s original “War on Christmas” and by 1659 Bostonians could be fined for observing it. Other colonies outlawed it for decades. Down in Jamestown, Virginia, it was celebrated unofficially, and they managed to add eggnog to the tradition.

Right up through the American Revolution, however, Yankees largely ignored Christmas. This included the Founding Fathers, who generally didn’t pay that much attention to the holiday. That famous painting of George Washington praying in the snow at Valley Forgeon Christmas of 1777 depicts what is likely a fictional event.

By the early 1800s, Christmas was reworked into something more acceptable to Protestants. The Industrial Revolution created a growing gap between rich and poor, and nobody did much about it because poverty was seen as a character flaw or a deliberate choice. But now the urban poor were becoming violent in the streets. Reacting to this, social activists and writers made Christmas an occasion to help the needy. It wasn’t until well into the 19th century that traditions like Christmas trees, carols, cards, and the department store Santa really caught on.

As for today, taking the Jesus out of Christmas is not the work of “secular progressives.” It’s mainly the work of the free market. Advertisers and retailers are the ones who came up with “holiday trees” and “Seasons Greetings” and turned it all into an Olympic event for your credit card. When you see an ad featuring Santa Claus declaring, “Ho-ho-ho! It’s the Holidays!”, blame our savvy capitalists, who want to sell Hanukah gifts, too. And since Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th anyway, it’s the Romans who ought to be bitching about the “War on Saturnalia.” Ah, but who listens to them anymore?

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